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Professor Cho, whose brother lives in the North
"On the 15th we'll be able to see our relatives - there's nothing else I could ask for"
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Friday, 16 June, 2000, 16:25 GMT 17:25 UK
Hope for Koreas' divided families
A rare family reunion for relatives divided by both Koreas
A rare reunion for relatives divided by both Koreas
By Caroline Gluck in Seoul

One item high on the agenda of the Pyongyang summit was the issue of Korea's separated families.

Millions of families were split up when Korea was divided more than half a century ago.
Mr Cho: He was reunited with his brother after 50 years apart
Mr Cho: Reunited with his brother after 50 years

Cho Kyong-chol, an astronomer, has spent a lifetime studying other worlds.

As far as he is concerned, for the last half century, North and South Korea might as well have been two different planets.

Originally from Pyongyang, he fled to the South in 1947, leaving his mother and brother behind.

A spell in prison convinced him that he had no future in the Communist North.

That was the last time he saw his family, until a few months ago.

When we met, wow, that pale-faced boy of 14 years old was 66 years old

Cho Kyong-chol, reunited with brother
He was recently able to return to Pyongyang to be reunited with his brother.

"One half century, 52 years, I could not even exchange a letter, I could not even just glance at any chance to meet together," he says.

"When we met, wow, that pale-faced boy of 14 years old was 66 years old.

"Of course I was an old man also. We embraced together and just cried and cried and cried.

"I had only my father's picture before I met my brother and my brother only had my mother's.

"When we met together, we could finally exchange our parents' pictures."


The division of Korea has made such family reunions almost impossible.

The two countries are technically still at war. Their three year conflict ended in 1953 in a truce and not a peace treaty.

Both sides still regard each other across their border, the most heavily defended in the world, with mutual hostility and distrust.

The only official large-scale family reunions took place 15 years ago.

Time is running out for those now in their 70s and 80s who are desperate to be reunited with relatives in the North.
Broker between N and S Korea
Mr Song: I've seen so much pain

Because there are few contacts between the two countries, many are turning to private brokers, like Song Nak-hwan, for help.

"I'm not in this business to make money," he says.

"I'm involved because our people are committed to solving this problem."

"I've seen so much pain among the separated families and I decided that I must help them in any way that I can."


The summit has raised hopes that official family reunions may soon take place.
Both sides regard each other with hostility
Mutual distrust across the Korean demarcation line

Increased contact between families of the North and the South would mark an important step along the path towards eventual re-unification.

Meanwhile, thousands travel to North Korea's fabled Diamond Mountains as cruise ship passengers on a landmark tourism link between the two countries.

For many, it may be the only chance to pay homage to their ancestors as they set foot on North Korean soil for the first time in almost half a century

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See also:

10 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Korea summit raises hopes
08 Oct 98 | Korean elections 97
South Korea: A political history
09 Sep 98 | Korea at 50
Inside the Secret State
22 Feb 99 | Korean elections 97
Kim Dae Jung: A political profile
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